June 26 2012 – Wildlife Photographer Laurel Lockamy

Interview with Laurel Lockamy, a freelance photographer from Gulfport, MS, credited with shooting over 100K photos of dead, dying or distressed marine and wildlife in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Incident.  Her photos are featured in the Huffington Post, National Geographic, and the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Gallery in New York City.

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June 6 2012 – Rebuilding

Josh is working on a documentary about the Perkins School For the Blind so we decided to stop by Helen Keller’s House on our way out to Phil Campbell so that he could collect some background footage.

Once we got to Phil Campbell we spent some time collecting footage of the town and the tornado’s path.

Our first interviews of the day were with the patrons of Mrs. D’s. The tornado destroyed the restaurant but Mrs. D’s is back up and serving lunch to the residents of Phil Campbell.

Our next interview was with Rita Barton, an employee at the town’s bank. Rita and the other employees were inside the vault of the bank when the tornado passed over them. Rita is the organizer for the I’m with Phil Event, a day where Phil Campbell’s from all over the world travel to the town for a celebration. Rita wanted to cancel last year’s event due to the tornado but ‘Brooklyn Phil’ suggested that he and the other Phil’s come in to help with the recovery.

After interviewing Rita we headed over to the community college and spoke to some of the faculty there.

When we pulled up at the site of the new Mountain View church we were shocked at how quickly the construction was progressing. We interviewed Tom McAfee, a volunteer from Joplin who lived through last year’s EF4. Tom was in the basement with his wife and grandson when the tornado passed directly over their house. Tom said that recovering from the tornado taught him the importance community and accepting help. Even when he thought he was getting by on his own other people had been there helping him and he is stronger for it.

On our way back to Huntsville we passed a man who was out riding his horse down the meridian of the highway.

Josh is working on a documentary about the Perkins School For the Blind so we decided to stop by Helen Keller’s House on our way out to Phil Campbell so that he could collect some background footage.

Once we got to Phil Campbell we spent some time collecting footage of the town and the tornado’s path.

Our first interviews of the day were with the patrons of Mrs. D’s. The tornado destroyed the restaurant but Mrs. D’s is back up and serving lunch to the residents of Phil Campbell.

Our next interview was with Rita Barton, an employee at the town’s bank. Rita and the other employees were inside the vault of the bank when the tornado passed over them. Rita is the organizer for the I’m with Phil Event, a day where Phil Campbell’s from all over the world travel to the town for a celebration. Rita wanted to cancel last year’s event due to the tornado but ‘Brooklyn Phil’ suggested that he and the other Phil’s come in to help with the recovery.

After interviewing Rita we headed over to the community college and spoke to some of the faculty there.
When we pulled up at the site of the new Mountain View church we were shocked at how quickly the construction was progressing. We interviewed Tom McAfee, a volunteer from Joplin who lived through last year’s EF4. Tom was in the basement with his wife and grandson when the tornado passed directly over their house. Tom said that recovering from the tornado taught him the importance community and accepting help. Even when he thought he was getting by on his own other people had been there helping him and he is stronger for it.

On our way back to Huntsville we passed a man who was out riding his horse down the meridian of the highway.

June 5 2012 – Phil Campbell

After driving down to Alabama and processing our footage from Joplin we are back out shooting interviews.

In late April of last year a massive series of tornadoes hit the United States and one of the communities most affected was the town of Phil Campbell, AL. The tornado that hit Phil Campbell was a 130 mile long EF5. In the year since it was hit the population has dropped from just over 1,000 to just over 800.

Our first interview in Phil Campbell was with Barry Pounder, the emergency rescue team coordinator and a teacher at Northwest-Shoals Community College. Barry stressed the importance of regular interdepartmental table top drills in preparing a city for disaster response. After their experiences in the days after the tornado Phil Campbell’s Emergency Services are installing backup sources of power and Ham radios.

Barry suggested we head over to the site of the New Mountain View Baptist Church and introduced us to the pastor Brother Sammy Taylor. Sammy’s church was completely destroyed in the storm and after months of meeting in large trailers they were finally starting construction on a new building. Volunteers from Baptist communities around the nation are coming in and helping with the construction.

One of the volunteers we interviewed was Randy Bolton, he has been with the Baptist Builders for over a decade spending a week each summer helping communities around the nation build new churches.

After lunch we met with Police Chief Merrell Potter at the Phil Campbell Community Storm Shelter. While the area around the shelter was devastated the shelter itself remained entirely intact. The town was so satisfied with its performance that they had the manufacturer construct 3 smaller shelters by the high school. Chief Potter explained how the destruction of the communications infrastructure complicates the rescue operations in the days immediately following a disaster as devastating as an EF5.

Our last interview in Phil Campbell for the day was with Bart Moss. Bart is a high school teacher who created a website to help provide accurate information about relief work and fatalities. He said that running a site like that is a serious commitment that will take up multiple hours a day for the first few months. The two largest employers in Phil Campbell are the high school and the community college. Bart is worried about what might happen to the town’s population if it can’t find the money to rebuild the high school in the near future.

After talking with Bart with collected some footage of the damage done to the high school. The whiteboards still have homework assignments written on them from the day the tornado hit.

We left Phil Campbell to meet Browan Lollar in Florence, AL. Browan is a professional musician and artist who shared his experience with the influence of disasters on southern music.